Tri-ing in the Holy Land

The ramblings of a struggling triathlete in Israel

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Location: Israel

I'm the mother of 3, a teacher and a couch potato turned triathlete.

Monday, October 24, 2005


No, that's not the time of day. It's not the time I got to work this morning, either (I haven't been at work for two weeks -- it's the holidays here!). And it's not the time I got up...

I went to last night's swim workout in a nasty mood (and no, it didn't start at 8:04). I thought we were just doing volume, so I was rather surprised when right after the warmup, my coach told us to do six 15 meter sprints, as this drill usually leads up to something fast. When we had finished that, I discovered what the main drill was -- 400 meters as fast as possible. Ugh. I wasn't up to it. I wasn't ready (I was still breathing hard from the sprints. I didn't want to do it.

We were three people in the lane. One guy took off and there were 10 seconds until the next person. I still wasn't ready, but the other guy told me it was my turn, so next thing I knew, off I went. I tried not to swim too hard, because my coach had told us we were supposed to have a negative split and I knew if I went out too hard, I'd never be able to do the second half even harder. Plus, I'm never really sure how hard I can swim for 400 meters -- I'm afraid of going out too hard and running out of steam.

The guy who had started ahead of me is normally a slightly faster swimmer, though we're pretty close as the distances get longer. For the first few lengths, we were meeting at the T. Then I noticed that he was passing me after I'd passed the T. Then I was tickling his feet (I'll be he enjoyed that!). Then I passed him. Hmm...

I finished first in my lane and waited for my coach to tell me my time. My previous PR at 400 meters was something like 8:52, I think. That was quite some time ago, but I haven't done too many timed 400s since then. I figured I would do around 8:30 or so. 22 seconds off my previous best time would be nice. So my coach says, "8:14." Wow! Nice time for me! But wait... He always gives the time for the first person to start in the lane and each subsequent person has to take off time, depending on how many seconds Yigal (the coach) waited between swimmers. So I told him I'd started second and asked how many seconds I had to take off. He told me ten. Ten? Oh, so I swam 8:04. 8:04?! That's pretty incredible for me (all you swimmers out there, please stop groaning -- it really is a fast time for me and my long-term goal is to be able to do 1500 meters in 30:00).

A few teammates have mentioned to me recently that my swimming has really improved. The problem is, we haven't done a time distance longer than 100 meters in quite a while and I'm not all that fast at shorter distances. Actually, my 100 meter time has improved, too. Whereas I used to struggle to do 2:10, I recently did 1:50. Yeah, I know, if I did 400 meters in 8:04, that's 2:01 per 100, which sounds perfectly reasonable if I can do 100 meters in 1:50, but 400 meters is a lot longer than 100 and requires a lot more pacing, at least for me. And the amazing thing is that I'm pretty sure I could have done it faster -- I didn't even push all that hard until the last 25 meters. If I had known I'd be so close to 8:00, I would have pushed a little bit harder to try to go 7:something. Next time...

89 kilometers

On Saturday, I did my longest ride to date -- 89 km. The youth team was away at training camp (along with our coach), so that adults decided to do a fun ride. We rode almost 45 km to Yad Mordechai and a few people continued on to the beach at Zikim (I wasn't among them) and then back. At Yad Mordechai, we had a nice breakfast and then road home.

During our stop, we saw a huge group of riders come in for a stop. They were doing a special three-day ride from the north of Israel to the southern tip in Eilat. This was their second day. Each day was 200 km and there were over 200 riders, I think. It was very cool to see them and it made our ride seem short :-)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Things I never thought would happen...

I never thought I'd find myself riding a bike at 3:30 a.m.

I never thought I'd go to bed (healthy and willingly) at 7:30 p.m.

I never thought that at the age of 40, I'd have a trophy shelf.

I never thought underwear would become an unessential item (or at least not in the middle of the day). Come to think of it, I never thought that the lack of underwear would become a topic of conversation, especially with people of the opposite sex (or at least not in the middle of the day...)

I never thought that being kicked in the crotch by a guy would make me laugh (imagine the scene: We're in the outdoor pool, I'm doing backstroke and having a lot of trouble swimming in a straight line, he's doing breaststroke in the other direction and trying to get around me. Ouch.)

I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. Feel free to add your own thoughts in your comments!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

That running thing...

What is it with me and running? How much of it is true difficulty and how much is just a mental block? The following two pictures are both of me running in the same race, taken within minutes of each other:

In this picture, I look terrible. Just to be fair, I think I was going around a cone on my way out to the second loop, but it looks more like I'm dancing than running! And don't let the smile fool you. If I'm smiling in a running picture, it's because I'm suffering. I was not enjoying myself.

I think this is how I usually look when I run. Bad.
Now on to the second picture...

Yup, that's really me. I'm running towards the finish line this time. It's hard to see my face, but I'm not smiling (a good sign). My foot is actually up in the air. My arms are moving. I appear to be in motion! I actually look like I'm running.

So what's up with this? Obviously, I do know how to run. Yeah, the angle of the picture is different, but I doubt I'd look too bad from the side in this one. So why can't I run like this all the time???

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hof Karmel Triathlon - 1 October 2005

Thanks to TAN for the picture
I think maybe this was a "breakthrough" race for me. I went into the race with two goals and I achieved both of them. The first was to run the entire run (no walk breaks). The second goal was to break 1:40, which I'd only done once before and I'm not entirely convinced that the distances in that particular race were correct.

The day actually started out badly. I had a lot of trouble getting out of bed at 2:50 a.m. (we left at 3:30), even after going to sleep really early. And when we got to the race site, it was pitch black out and very depressing. And I was cold and I hadn't brought a jacket or anything. In addition, someone had made a mistake with the age groups and I was listed as being in the 39 and under wave, whereas I was supposed to be 40+. This wasn't that big of a deal (in fact, the problem had been corrected before I even complained about it), but unlike any other race I've ever done, we were actually assigned specific spots in the transition area according to number and my spot was in the 39 and under group, far away from my teammates (and far away from the exit, meaning I'd have to run a lot with my bike). In fact, I was surrounded by kids. I didn't get that at all (none of them looked like they were in their 30s) until later on. Then I saw the sign at the end of my assigned rack: youth (16-19) sprint. LOL. Since the youth and 39 and unders started five minutes before the 40+ wave, it was very very easy to find my bike when I got to the transition area after the swim. :-)

We had a long wait before our start at 8:40. I watched the kids start and I watched the start of the Olympic distance. Then I went for a very short run, which was actually a run / stop and talk / run / stop and talk. Sort of a warmup. Finally, it was almost time. I got my stuff ready and went down to the beach to warm up in the water.

The swim start was very crowded. They had us all cramped into a tiny little area. I pushed my way to the back because I didn't want to be trampled running into the water. Finally they blew the horn and off we went. The swim started well. It wasn't a long run this time and I wasn't out of breath when I started swimming. It was a little bit crowded, but not too bad, and I managed to avoid getting hit or kicked too badly.

Just after rounding the first buoy, I saw two of my teammates, Gil and Ronit. Both are slightly slower swimmers than I am and both routinely beat me out of the water at races. In fact, this has been one of the most frustrating things for me this year. I just have not been able to understand how they get out of the water so much faster than I do. Gil ended up swimming next to me for the next 500 meters to the end. He tried drafting off of me, but he told me that in open water, his freestyle is faster than mine because he's got more upper body strength (there's my answer...) and every time he started swimming freestyle, he ended up swimming into me. Problem is, he's a lousy swimmer and he can't swim freestyle for too long. He gets tired and reverts to breastroke and every time that happened, I ended up passing him. So he gave up and just swam next to me. I think he hit and kicked me more than anyone else in the race. I couldn't see where Ronit was until I actually stood up to run out of the water. She was directly in front of me and all three of us left the water together. I checked my watch and was very pleased to see that I'd finished the swim in just over 16 minutes -- a good 750 meter time for me (and I hadn't really worked that hard in the swim).

The first transition went really smoothly. First of all, I was actually able to run pretty quickly to the transition area -- much faster than usual (and it was a fairly long run). I had no trouble getting my shoes and number on and I was out of there in no time. The entire transition -- exit from the water, run to the transition area, putting on shoes, my number, my sunglasses and my helmet and running out of the transition area with my bike (not really far, but not really close, either) took me, according to my chip time, just under three minutes. I actually spent less time in the transition area than Gil, who is usually very fast (he's a lousy swimmer, but he makes up for it in every other aspect of triathlon -- he took 1st place in his age group today). My chip time for the swim (including transition) was 19:06. That was 7/14 (or maybe 13 -- I only saw 13 in the results online, but there were 14 listed in the results at the race) in my age group, 51/126 overall for 40+ sprint. Finally, I was in the top half overall, including the men! :-)

Getting on my bike was a bit awkward. The mounting area was very crowded and people were stopped. One guy was being sent back because he'd mounted too soon. I found a spot on the side, but I couldn't jump on my bike -- it would have been too dangerous (especially since I'm not very skilled at jumping on the bike). So I got on rather slowly and then ended up weaving off the asphalt path and into the dirt. I was actually afraid I'd end up falling, because I was having trouble stabilizing my bike and keeping it on the path (I wasn't clipped in yet and my feet were sliding all over the pedals), but I didn't. Once I got moving, I got clipped in very quickly and I was off.

This was the best ride I've ever had in a race. Unfortunately, my bike computer once again decided not to work (it only does this in races!), so I had no idea how fast I was going. But I felt really good. I kept expecting to see Ronit, who is much faster than I am on the bike, but had been slow in transition. She only managed to catch up with me and pass me at 8 km and she never got far ahead of me -- she was still in the transition area when I got there. The route was a fast one -- mainly an out and back on a major highway, almost entirely flat. This is my favorite kind of route, though it's not normally the best kind for me, as I'm relatively fast on hills (going up), whereas I'm don't seem to be able to ride as well on flat roads. However, fast as I may be, I hate riding up hills. A peek at my watch halfway through proved what I had suspected -- I was flying (relatively flying -- I'm just not that fast!).

I finished the bike leg in 44:04 minutes for an average of about 27.2 kph (just under 17 mph). That's a minute faster than my previous best time at that distance. And I finished feeling really strong. I was 9/14 in my age group and 97/126 overall. Apparently, everyone had a good day on the bike. LOL. I got off the bike and had no trouble running into the transition area (I've even improved at running with my bike -- all those bricks and transition practices that I really hate seem to have helped me). In fact, as I was running into the transition area, the two men in front of me decided that they were going to walk with their bikes. Normally, I would say, "If they're walking, I can too!" but not today. Today, all I could think was, "Why are they WALKING! They'd better get out of my way!"

The second transition was a little more problematic than the first, as one of my running shoes decided not to cooperate. The back of my shoe kept collapsing when I put my foot in. I finally managed to get it worked out, though, and off I went.

The run was, as expected, the hardest part of the race for me. I was determined, however, to keep pushing forward. I started off strong and began struggling almost immediately. 5 minute kms were out of the question today. My legs didn't hurt, but I was breathing hard. I intentionally didn't wear my HR monitor, so I had no idea what my heart rate was and I really didn't want to know. I just kept running. There was sand. I hate running in sand. But I kept running. I felt like dying, but I kept running (I slowed down a bit to pull myself together, but I kept running). A lot of men passed me and one or two women. I tried to keep up with one woman who was in my age group, but she was eventually able to pull ahead of me. I was tired and I wanted to walk, but I kept running.

At the final water station, a group of kids who were volunteering started cheering me on. They screamed, "You're great! You're the best!" etc. I laughed, thinking these kids must have taken encouragement lessons from my former coach (who was also out there cheering me on today). Then, with maybe 500 meters to go, I saw my coach. He screamed at me to pick up my feet and sprint. I did and I was absolutely amazed when I heard him scream, "Yes! Just like that! Now do that until the finish line!" So that's what I did.

My run was slower than I would have liked. A little over 31 minutes on my watch and 33:23 for my chip time (that included T2). I was 11/14 in my age group and 89/126 overall. However, when I looked at my watch after crossing the finish line, all I could do was smile. It read 1:36:33. I'd beaten my goal by almost three and a half minutes. I was 9/14 in my age group and 86/126 overall. Since that overall includes a LOT of men, Being just past the 2/3 mark isn't bad.

I was a little bit disappointed in my age group placing until I saw the results online. The woman who took 1st place in my age group was 9th overall (and the first woman in the 40+ wave to finish). The 2nd place woman in my age group was 12th overall and the second woman to finish. And the 3rd place woman was the one who took 1st place in the previous two races. She was 22nd overall and the 3rd woman to finish. And her bike time was the 2nd fastest in the heat -- one second faster than Gil's (and I never even bother trying to ride with him because he's really fast). She averaged over 34 kph (21 mph) on the course. I don't know if that's fast for the rest of you, but it's fast in my book, especially for a 42-year-old woman. I think she was the fastest woman on the sprint course today, including both heats and the youth. She was faster than most of the men, too. So I had some really tough competition today. There were a few woman in my age group who finished not long before me, but with these three competing against me, I didn't have any chance of getting hardware today.

Anyway, the important thing is that I did everything I set out to do today and I finally had a decent swim (which was not one of today's goals -- I had decided that too many things connected to the swim are out of my control for me to set any kind of swim goal beyond "swim my best"). Oh, and I had fun, as you can see in the picture of me with a few of my teammates (that's me on the right).

My next planned race is a duathlon at the end of the month. I think I'll be skipping the duathlon after that (I think the entire adult team is skipping it) and then we have the national triathlon championships in Eilat on December 2nd to close the season.

September totals

swim: 20,150 meters
bike: 136.7 km
run: 42.4 km

This was my best swimming month since May. The coach has started giving us longer workouts and I think it's paying off.

It was a weak month for me on the bike. I missed three out of four long rides because we had two races and I was sick one weekend. However, I did get in a lot of transition practice, which is important.

And running... Well, what can I say? Another lousy month. And it's really showing in my race performance. Now that the weather has cooled off, I hope to get in more (and longer) runs. I think I need to be doing at bare minimum, 15 km a week (which is nothing). I came close in July (59.9), but the only month this year that I actually did more than 60 km was January. That's pretty sad. I plan to discuss this with my coach, because even though (when compared to other people) I'm better at running than I am on the bike, the run is the only part of the race when I really really suffer and want to quit. That's not good :-(

October's going to be a bit tricky because it's a month full of holidays. In fact, our training schedule is very messed up this month. However, there's a duathlon at the end of the month, so I'm going to have to get those running and bike kms in.

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